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The Running Decathlon: The 1500m

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Kelly Hayes, a spotter on NBC’s Sunday Night Football, is attempting to to complete “The Running Decathlon” which consists of the ten most widely-run track events. His goal is to run each race “half as fast,” or in twice the time, of the current world record in each event. And he will attempt to run these races in the footsteps of those who set the records on the very tracks, and in the very stadiums where the records were set.

His “quest” serves as a platform to raise funds to purchase a $90,000 exoskeleton Bionic Suit, which allows those with critical spinal injuries to rise from their wheelchairs and actually take assisted walks. Think Tony Stark from Ironman. He is relying on donations to the Bridging Bionics Foundation to make this a reality.

Follow Kelly on his journey, which begins in Rome on July 7, 2016, here, on Facebook, Twitter and at race2walk2016.com where you can make a 100 percent tax-deductible contribution towards the purchase of an exoskeleton Bionic Suit for the Bridging Bionics Foundation. One hundred percent of your donations will go towards the purchase of these suits.

Please turn Kelly’s steps into dollars. And we will turn dollars into steps for those who want to walk again.

Eighteen years ago, Hicham El Guerrouj set a record that is currently the longest-standing world record in the 10 events that make up The Running Decathlon.

On July 14, 1998, at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome in the Golden Gala meet, El Guerrouj, inspired by both immortality and a $50,000 bonus for a world record, ran the 1,500m in 3:26.00. He averaged an incredible 54.93 per lap in breaking the standing mark of Algeria’s Noureddine Morceli by more than a full second.

There was justice in the victory. Just two years before, at the Olympic Games in Atlanta, El Guerrouj suffered a devastating defeat to Morceli in the same 1,500 meters. As the pair jockeyed for position at the start of the fourth and final lap of that Olympic final, El Guerrouj clipped Morceli’s right foot and tumbled to the track. Displaying incredible fortitude, he rose to finish the race, but his dream of a gold medal ended with a 12th-place finish.

The legend is that El Guerrouj, distraught and seemingly inconsolable, took tearful refuge in the bowels of the Olympic Stadium in Atlanta. There, he received a telephone call from Morocco’s King Hassan, who not only consoled him in his defeat, but also urged him to run his best in the future.

El Guerrouj went on to victory in a number of races over his rival over the next two years and today, still, he holds world marks in the 1,500m, the Mile and the 2,000m.  He also still holds indoors records in the 1,500m and the Mile that date back to February of 1997.

And gold would eventually be his as well. In the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, his final as a competitor, El Guerrouj won the 1500 meters that had eluded him in his two previous Games (he finished second in 2000 in Sydney to Kenyan Noah Ngeny who had paced the 1,500-meter record run in Rome two years before) and doubled up with a gold medal in the 5,000 meters.

Current NBC commentator, and former miler, Craig Masback,  told Sports Illustrated back in 2001 that El Guerrouj “has the cardiovascular system of a man 6-foot-6, the legs of a man 6-foot-2 and the upper body of a man 5-foot-2. In his prime he stood 5-foot-9 and weighed in at a sleek 126 pounds.

But, as a middle-distance runner, he towered above all who came before. Or since.

Other Standards in the 1500m

Olympic Record:   3:32.07  Noah  Ngeny  (KEN)

Women’s Record:  3:50.07 Genzebe Dibaba (ETH)

American Record:  3:29.30 Bernard Lagat  (USA)

** Lagat ran the third-fastest 1,500m ever in 2001 in a race where he finished second to El Guerrouj in Brussels. At the time, he was a Kenyan citizen. He became a citizen of the United States in 2004 and set the American standard in 2005.

Men’s 60-year-old Record: 4:24 Nolan Shaheed (USA)

Alaskan Native Pete Kaiser wins Iditarod sled dog race

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) Pete Kaiser won the Iditarod early Wednesday, throwing his arms over his head and pumping his fists as he became the latest Alaska Native to claim victory in the iconic sled dog race.

Kaiser, 31, crossed the finish line in Nome after beating back a challenge from the defending champion, Norwegian musher Joar Ulsom.

Crowds cheered and clapped as Kaiser came off the Bering Sea ice and mushed down Nome’s main street to the famed burled arch finish line. His wife and children greeted him, hugging him at the conclusion of the 1,000-mile (1,600-kilometer) race, which began March 3 north of Anchorage.

Kaiser, who is Yupik, is from the southwest Alaska community of Bethel. A large contingent of Bethel residents flew to Nome to witness his victory. Alaska Native dancers and drummers performed near the finish line as they waited for Kaiser to arrive.

Kaiser will receive $50,000 and a new pickup truck for the victory. Four other Alaska Native mushers have won the race, including John Baker, an Inupiaq from Kotzebue, in 2011.

This year’s race was marked by the stunning collapse of Frenchman Nicolas Petit, who was seemingly headed for victory as late as Monday.

Petit, a native of France living in Alaska, had a five-hour lead and was cruising until his dog team stopped running between the Shaktoolik and Koyuk checkpoints.

Petit said one dog was picking on another during a rest break, and he yelled at the dog to knock it off. At that point, the entire team refused to run.

Petit had to withdraw, and the dog team had to be taken back to the previous checkpoint by snowmobile.

Fifty-two mushers began the race in Willow. Petit was among 10 racers who withdrew during the race.

The race took mushers and their dog teams over two mountain ranges, along the frozen Yukon River and then across the treacherous, wind-swept Bering Sea coast to the finish line in Nome.

This year’s race came during a bruising two-year stretch for the Iditarod that included a dog doping scandal and the loss of national sponsors amid protests by animal rights activists.

French musher was leading Iditarod, but then his dogs quit

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) Musher Nicolas Petit lost a huge lead in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday when his dog team refused to keep going after he yelled at one of the animals.

A dog named Joey had been fighting with another dog on the team and jumped it during a break on the way to the Bering Sea checkpoint of Koyuk.

“I yelled at Joey, and everybody heard the yelling, and that doesn’t happen,” Petit told the Iditarod Insider website. “And then they wouldn’t go anymore. Anywhere. So we camped here.”

Several mushers passed Petit’s team on the trail, erasing his five-hour lead in the race. Pete Kaiser of Alaska was the first musher into Koyuk, followed 11 minutes later by defending champion Joar Ulsom of Norway.

The checkpoint is 827 miles (1,330 kilometers) into the 1,000-mile (1,600-kilometer) race across Alaska.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a frequent critic of the race, didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment Monday.

Petit said his dogs are well-fed and there’s no medical issue keeping them from getting up and running.

“It’s just a head thing,” he said. “We’ll see if one of these dog teams coming by will wake them up at all.”

For Petit, it’s another bad memory from the stretch between the Shaktoolik and Koyuk checkpoints.

He was in command of last year’s race when he got off trail during a blizzard and lost the lead. He wound up finishing second behind Ulsom.

“Something about right here, huh?” he mused.

The race started March 2 in Willow, just north of Anchorage. The course through the Alaska wilderness took mushers over two mountain ranges and the frozen Yukon River before they reached the treacherous Bering Sea coast.

The winner is expected to come off the sea ice and mush down Nome’s main street to the finish line sometime in the middle of the week.